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If your favourite horror movie ever is Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 screen adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining then you would certainly find Doctor Sleep to be an earnest successor. Further, Doctor Sleep is an organic, free from range horror film – no artificial jump-scares; no artificial ghosts.
Forty years after the terrifying events of Stanley’s iconic movie The Shining, the now grown-up Dan Torrance, the son of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance from the original, is still irrevocably scarred by the trauma of the harrowing escape from the Overlook Hotel when his father suffered a mental breakdown and nearly killed him and his mother.
Interestingly, Dan’s childhood nickname was Doc. While working as an orderly in a hospice, he shows up in the patients’ rooms late at night sitting by the hospital beds. He’s able to understand that it’s over, that they’re about to die and he helps them with the deep-sleep. Hence, he is called Doctor Sleep.
Abra, a courageous young girl with particularly extrasensory abilities, contacts Dan seeking his help against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers. They are a cult of quasi-immortals called The True Knot who feast on the psychic power of people like Dan and Abra – “The Shine” (as Dan calls them) of innocents. Their mantra is “Eat well, live long”. Writer, director and editor Mike Flanagan had the most thrilling task – reconciling an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep, which is Stephen’s sequel to his novel, The Shining and Stanley’s adaptation of the same that established a cinematic universe. Especially when we know that Stephen found the Stanley’s adaptation to be “too cold”.
Though, Mike successfully pays homage to the classic Stephen theme with a Kubrick-ian artistic style and achieves to tell his own story eluding a hybrid of Stanley and Stephen.
His Doctor Sleep is about recovery and overcoming trauma from the addiction and sufferings in The Shining.
He cares about Stephen’s characters and the architecture of their minds. Each of them has their own psychological journey, at the same time recreating some of Stanley’s iconic casts and visuals.
Still, the potential heart and soul of the movie would have been the new story between Dan and Abra, but it only has moments in parts not as a whole.
Ewan captures well the pain of a man who has a troubled past. Rebecca gives her career best performance as an alarming anti-hero Rose the Hat.
“We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Much like the recent It Chapter Two, which is about characters confronting their past, in Doctor Sleep the characters are defined by their past. You must challenge it, learn to let it go and sometimes face your fears to reawaken the ghosts of the past.